Hearts Through History Romance Writers

The History of Wedding Gowns

by | April 3, 2012 | 1 comment

Marriage is one of the great public occasions in a person’s life at which the principals can revel in being the center of attention. For the bride, it is Her Big Day. For centuries women have tried to make their wedding dress special and memorable.

Medieval Brides

Royal princesses were more ‘royal’ on the wedding days. In medieval times, when royal weddings were great political events and used to seal alliances, the bride had to look majestic. She had to uphold the prestige of her country, impress the in-laws and their country with her own wealth, and if possible outdo them.

In days when all fabrics were hand spun, woven and dyed, and economical use of it was the norm gowns made with more material, dyed with expensive dyes, and expensively accented made the statement the bride’s family was wealthy. Skirts were gathered, sleeves were down to the ground and trains were long. Rich colors were used because these dyes were expensive. Furs and jewels were often used as accents. No expense was spared.

The gowns for lower class brides were also formal. They too tried to impress. Humbler fabrics and dyes were used but brides copied the styles of the nobility and trimmed with less expensive furs, rabbit or fox. Peasant brides wore green and blue and worked hard to trim with flowers and ribbons to enhance their gowns.

By the 1300’s wedding gowns were the ‘bold coat.’ This consisted of a close fitting garment over an underdress. The ‘coat’ was laced up and had long sleeves, and a long slit up the front to show the underdress and train.

Some shade of white has always been a favorite. It symbolized virginity and innocence. But white was not practical and was not always worn. Blue, associated with the Virgin Mary, and another symbol of purity as well as fidelity and eternal love was also worn. Brides who wore blue believed their husbands would be true to them. If they didn’t wear blue, they wore something blue, a tradition that we still see today. Other colors have been popular for bridal gowns, pink, yellow, even brown and grey.

Victorian Brides

In 1840, Queen Victoria married Prince Albert and wore a relatively plain white satin gown. Her headdress was a wreath of orange blossoms with a lace veil and eighteen foot train. Their official wedding picture was published around the world and the white wedding gown became the fashion of high society.

The Industrial Revolution brought about great change even in wedding gowns. Materials were more accessible and reasonably priced.  By 1890, the white wedding gown became a tradition.

Edwardian Brides and Onward

This period brought about more extravagance in wedding gowns with lace and pearl embellishments. Overtime, hemlines rose and tight laces corsets disappeared. Wedding gowns followed the fashion of the day and reflected the economics and politics of the time. During WW1, styles became simpler. Gowns in the 1920’s reflected the flapper style. During the depression, brides wore their ‘best’ dress for their wedding with many brides dying their white wedding dress after the wedding to get more use out of it.

Modern Fairytale Weddings

Grace Kelly’s marriage Prince Rainier of Monaco in 1956 set the next big trend. Her wedding gown was a white high-necked, long-sleeved gown with fitted torso and billowing skirt made of twenty-five yards of silk taffeta, one hundred yards of silk net, peau de soie, tulle and Brussels rose point lace. She wore a Juliet cap decorated with seed pearls, orange blossoms, and a veil of 90 yards of tulle. Like Queen Victoria’s wedding before her, Princess Grace’s wedding set the trend for the next decade and big white wedding dresses were in.

Lady Diana’s wedding to Prince Charles in 1982 was also a spectacular wedding complete with a Victorian styled dress. It was a full skirt ivory taffeta on a grand scale. By the close of the century, gowns became sleeker.

Our Fairytale Wedding

We’re in the process of planning a wedding. We spent weeks looking at gowns and finally arrived at just the right one. When she walked out of the dressing room gone was the tomboy with jeans and an oversize shirt. In front of me stood a poised beautiful princess in a diamond white satin gown laced up the back. Seed pearls and crystals embellished the bodice and skirt all the down to the moderate train.

For Cori’s Big Day her wedding dress will continue in the tradition of every bride making their wedding dress special and memorable. I know when I see her walk down the aisle I will see a princess and it will make me and her Dad tear, just a little.

1 Comment

  1. Ally Broadfield

    I’m so glad a came across this wonderful post. How fun to learn where the “something blue” tradition came from.



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